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Australia, Canada suspend UN agency funding after Israeli allegations

Israel says will seek to stop UN agency's activities in Gaza after war

By AFP

January 27, 2024 03:31 PM


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Australia and Canada have suspended their funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, after Israel accused several employees of involvement in Hamas's October 7 attack.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Saturday she was "deeply concerned" by the allegations against the agency, UNRWA.

"We are speaking with partners and will temporarily pause disbursement of recent funding," she wrote on social media platform X.

"We welcome UNRWA's immediate response, including terminating contracts and launching an investigation, as well as its recent announcement of a full investigation into allegations against the organization," she added.

Canada's International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen on Friday announced that Ottawa had "temporarily paused any additional funding to UNRWA while it undertakes a thorough investigation into these allegations".

"Canada is taking these reports extremely seriously and is engaging closely with UNRWA and other donors on this issue," he wrote on X.

"Should the allegations prove to be accurate, Canada expects UNRWA to immediately act against those determined to have been involved in Hamas's terrorist attacks."

The moves come after the United States halted its funding to UNRWA on Friday, saying the allegations were against 12 employees who "may have been involved" in the Hamas attack that triggered the war in Gaza.

UNRWA said on Friday it had sacked several employees accused by Israel of involvement in the October 7 attack.

The head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, has vowed to hold "accountable, including through criminal prosecution" any UNRWA employee found to have been involved in "acts of terror".

UN chief Antonio Guterres has pledged to conduct an "urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA".

Wong noted in her statement UNRWA's "vital, life saving work", adding it "is providing essential services in Gaza directly to those who need it, with more than 1.4 million Palestinians currently sheltering in its facilities".

Israel says will seek to stop UN agency's activities in Gaza after war

Israel will seek to stop the UN agency for Palestinian refugees from operating in Gaza after the war, a minister said Saturday, after Israel accused several UNRWA staff of involvement in Hamas's October 7 attack.

Israel was aiming to ensure "UNRWA will not be a part of the day after", Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on X, formerly Twitter, adding that he would try to gather support from the US, EU and other major donors to the agency.

Palestinian militant group Hamas on Saturday slammed Israeli "threats" against UNRWA, urging the UN and other international organisations not to "cave in to the threats and blackmail".

UNRWA said Friday it had sacked several employees accused by Israel of involvement in Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack, prompting the United States to suspend critical funding.

The head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, vowed to hold "accountable, including through criminal prosecution" any UNRWA employee found to have taken part in acts of terror.

In response to the firings, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged to conduct an "urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA", his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The US State Department said it had "temporarily paused additional funding" to the agency while it reviewed the claims as well as the UN's plan to address concerns.

Twelve employees "may have been involved", it added.

Australia and Canada also said they had suspended their funding to the agency.

Israel's relentless bombardment and siege of Gaza began soon after Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attacks that resulted in about 1,140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages and Israel says around 132 of them remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28 dead captives.

Israel has vowed to crush Hamas and Gaza's health ministry says the Israeli military offensive has killed at least 26,083 people, about 70 percent of them women and children.


AFP


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